The leadership provided by women in making social change is under-valued and largely unrecognised. Women underpin the fabric of society as leaders in their comminities, they keep families together and they are usually the force behind social progress in local, national and international politics. Women were not 'given' the vote in 1918, they took it; they campaigned for it, suffered for it and some of them died for it. The Equal Pay Act was not a 'gift' from men, it was fought for by shop floor women and pushed through parliament by a woman. The #metoo campaign shows the influence women have when they act collectively.

The low pay economy of the South West, the expectation that women will be the prime carers, the inaccessibility of affordable, quality childcare, the lack of opportunities for flexible working in quality jobs, continued prejudice and occupational segregation, and inadequate public transport systems, all conspire to give a persistent pay gap between women and men which varies across our region from close to the national average in Cornwall to upwards of 30% in the richer parts of the region. This translates into a massive income gap in retirement, being exacerbated by changes in the tax and benefit system which will cause regression to the 'dependent woman', 'male earner model' and reduced pension contributions for women (private and state).

Many women feel unsafe in the home, at work and in the street, particularly when dark. Mitigation is important, including rape crisis centres and support services for sufferers of domestic violence. However, women tell us they would like more emphasis on prevention. They would like the streets to feel safe, with more police and fewer areas taken over by threatening gangs and drunks. They would like less acceptance of the objectification of women, with non-licencing of sex and lap-dancing venues, for example. They would like better use of the education system to change the culture of violence against women amongst boys and young men. They would like better prosecution and curbing of abusive men.


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